The food is key, but so is the visual grandeur, and these afternoon tea haunts have plenty to offer with lush tropical foliage, grand arches and chandeliers, Gatsby-style ritziness – take your pick.
Weekday Three-tier Afternoon Tea at Tea Lounge
Photo: Regent Singapore
Thanks to a recent major facelift, the tearoom now resembles a verdant “jungle” – only this one’s air-conditioned and luxurious. Think plush sofas and plump cushions set in broody tones of deep green and earthy brown, tropical foliage, and botanical-themed folding screens.
Another piece of good news: Tea time runs from 12noon to 5pm, so you don’t have wait out hunger pangs till 3pm or so, as is common at most other places.
The customary triple tier of goodies is laden with savoury bites such as quiches, scones and finger sandwiches. They’re all pass muster, especially the superb buttery crusts on the quiches. But the real highlights of this afternoon tea are much more interactive.
The Tea Lounge takes their drinks very seriously. So much so that they’ve roped in specialists to train the staff on the finer points of coffee and tea preparation. You can get hipster café-quality lattes if you wish, but we suggest getting a pourover or tea to really take advantage of the experience. Your beverage will be prepared tableside on a brass-rimmed trolley, and it’s both education and meditative to observe the barista go through the motions of this modern tea (or coffee) ceremony – carefully measuring out the right amount of grounds or tea leaves, and steadily pouring a precise amount of hot water with an eye on the timer for the perfect brew. He’ll also be happy to share the origins of your coffee or tea.
Photo: Regent Singapore
And the visual spectacle doesn’t end there. The centrepiece of this lush space is the marble-clad pastry counter. That’s where the tiered sets are put together, and that’s also where the signature desserts – you get to pick one from a selection of four – are plated. Get a spot with a view of the counter, and you might just see the pastry team get fancy with sugar sculpting: heating, kneading, stretching and “blowing” (through a pump) the sugar “dough” to the desired form. Have a taste of it – literally – with the Golden Apple dessert. A shimmering green, the sugar shell cracks apart to reveal a trifle of sorts, layered with hazelnut crumble, yogurt espuma, yuzu apple compote, olive oil sponge and fromage blanc sorbet.
Or for something a bit more interactive, get the Coco Melon Symphony, a boozy take on mango sago dessert, but with a coconut sorbet, cubes of honeydew and cantaloupe, and sago pearls. The fun is in pouring the coconut liqueur over the shooter glass and watch it all bubble out. (If you’re feeling greedy, you can always add on another dessert order for $20).
And if you’re a fan of the iconic Manhattan bar, you’ll be pleased to hear that the bartenders have created a series of coffee- and tea-based cocktails (mocktails too, if you’re so inclined) just for the Tea Lounge. They’re not part of the set, but at $19 for a cocktail (and $14 for a mocktail), it’s too good a deal to pass up. Go ahead, get your booze fix early – we won’t tell.
Available Mon-Fri, noon-5pm. $48 per person (from $63 with a glass of prosecco, up to $108 with free-flow champagne). Lobby level, Regent Singapore, A Four Seasons Hotel, 1 Cuscaden Road, tel: 6725-3246.
Singapore Heritage Afternoon Tea at The Clifford Pier
Photo: The Fullerton Bay Hotel
The Clifford Pier is possibly Singapore’s most Instagrammed afternoon tea destination, and for good reason. The famed arches are even more grand and resplendent in person; the lobby Is expansive, but the setting feels intimate and private with wide-set tables and cosy sofas; and of course, the food – served a la carte buffet style – manages to be familiar and innovative, playing up Singapore’s heritage flavours with modern twists.
We love the miniature roti jala. Looking like a mini cornetto, it has fragrant, tender chunks of chicken curry stuffed inside lacy crepes. And the deconstructed carrot cake gets top marks for its creative flavours and visual play. Instead of the usual chunky mess, the carrot cake takes the form of a chwee kueh, and is topped with a mixture of scrambled eggs and XO sauce. It’s a delicious mind trick, and the clean flavours of the carrot cake provides an excellent canvas for the heady, spicy and salty character of the XO sauce.
Photo: The Fullerton Bay Hotel
The dessert selection offers both traditional and modern options, but train your gaze on the old school favourites. The pandan swiss roll, soft and slathered with pandan custard, can give the famously crowded Rich and Good Cake Shop a run for its money. And the Bika Ambon kueh with its honeycomb structure is perfectly supple and rich. The scones are also given an East-meets-West take, served with kaya, as well as passionfruit-and-mango jam in addition to the usual clotted cream.
If all that seems like they’ll be perfect with a strong cup of kopi or teh tarik, the good news is that they’re part of the high tea set, alongside brewed teas and espresso-based coffees. And if you want another boost of local flavour, you can add a scoop of kopi o, pandan, or teh tarik ice-cream for $6.
Available Mon-Fri, 3.30-5.30pm; Sat & Sun, 3-5pm. $45 per person; supplementary $10 for a glass of Moscato. Lobby level, Fullerton Bay Hotel Singapore, 80 Collyer Quay, tel: 6333 8388.
Afternoon Tea at Wildseed
Set in the vast compound of a colonial bungalow in Seletar Aerospace Park, with a lush edible garden for backdrop, a languorous afternoon tea session at Wildseed is a serene antidote for the chaos of city life.
Pastry Chef Chew has earned a loyal following for her local-inspired confectionaries since Wildseed opened earlier in the year, and the afternoon tea set – one of the most affordable ones we’ve tried, at $40 for two to share, and inclusive of coffee or tea – is a great way to get a taste of her tempting creations.
Finger sandwiches are usually the most boring component, but her caprese sandwich and chicken pinche sandwich were so scrumptious we made plans to get them for our next brunch visit. The caprese sandwich, served on crusty house-made focaccia, was so simple yet had such a lovely summery freshness to its flavours.
Photo: Mia Chenyze
The soft-serve is a good way to bridge into desserts. Opt for coconut flavour: Pale blue from a tinge of butterfly pea flower and crowned with granola and dried cranberries, this soft-serve is unexpectedly light, with a gentle whisper of gula melaka-esque sweetness.
For sweets, you get to choose four mini treats from a range of six. The hot sticky date pudding was easily our favourite, enrobed in ginger toffee glaze for a welcome spice hit, and topped with cranberries for tartness. The gluten-free chocolate cake, equal parts rich chocolate cake and silky ganache, is as indulgent as it gets. It sounds like a ticket to chocolate overdose, except this one’s brightened up by the citrus aroma of kaffir (chef infuses the ganache with kaffir lime leaves) and capped with crunchy slivers of toasted almond.
But the ultimate piece de resistance were the madeleines. We’ve had a good many excellent ones, but chef Jasmine’s version – at least on our visit – was hands down the best we’ve encountered in Singapore. We loved the crisp, caramelised edges and the crumb remained incredibly light and fluffy, even in this humidity. And that dreamy, citrusy perfume that permeated our senses with every bite! If you’ve never understood all that Proustian fuss over madeleines, these ones might change your mind.
Available daily, 3-6pm. $40 for two to share; supplementary $16 for two glasses of sparkling rosé. 3 Park Lane, tel: 6262-1063.
Atlas Afternoon Tea at Atlas
When it comes to old world grandeur, there’s nothing quite like Atlas. This magnificent gin bar takes its design cues from the Art Deco period, served up with Gatsby-esque glamour: expansive use of marbles, opulent gold and brass accents, frescoes and intricate motifs, and an iconic centrepiece of a three storey-high gin tower. So if it’s a lavish, tai-tai-day-out experience you seek, this is the height of indulgence.
Chef Daniele Sperindio has a wonderfully imaginative streak, and his inventiveness shows up in full force with the 15 item-strong afternoon tea set. Take the mock ravioli, which contains no pasta but is instead gorgonzola cheese wrapped in truffle-infused jelly sheets. It’s a heady burst of earthy, nutty, creamy and funky flavours, an indication of many more surprises to come.
Like the savoury éclair, piped with a silky grain mustard mornay mousse and draped with perfectly pink ohmi beef. It’s bite-sized but immensely satisfying, thanks to the buttery richness of the marbled wagyu.
In an ode to Atlas’ standing as the world’s largest library of gins, chef Daniele offers a gin and tonic shooter with a deconstructed twist. In his remake: wobbly gin jellies, bittersweet citrus mousse, and a pipette of tonic. It’s assertively boozy, with just enough sweetness to reflect its dessert label.
Desserts are in keeping with this unofficial theme to always offer an element of surprise. A dome-shaped praline looked unassuming but it turned absolutely sublime. It’s crunchy at first bite, thanks to the feuilletine base and chocolate shell, then suddenly, an unexpected explosion of chocolate and nuttiness. A hazelnut cream centre, comes the explanation.
When the inevitable food coma hits, just let yourself sink into the velvet sofa and bask in the bliss of your decadent afternoon.
Available Mon-Sat, 3-5pm. From $52 per person; supplementary $18 for a glass of Louis Roederer "Brut Premier" champagne. Atlas, Parkview Square, 600 North Bridge Road, tel: 6396 4466.
Three-Tier Local Signature Set at The Lobby Lounge
Photo: Shangri-La Singapore
Walk into the lobby of the recently renovated Shangri-La Hotel Singapore, and you’ll be greeted by a towering, floor-to-ceiling green wall that has been landscaped with tropical ferns and mosses over craggy basalt rock. It’s an oasis of calm for weary souls – just right for a leisurely afternoon tea away from the stresses of everyday life.
Served on colourful Peranakan crockery, the Three-Tier Signature Set at the Lobby Lounge is centred around a heritage theme and comprises a rotating selection of nibbles. Hainanese chicken curry puff, ngoh hiang, kueh pie tee, satay are among the possibilities for savouries. Nonya kuehs are of course de rigeur when it comes to dessert, and you can expect the likes of butterfly peaflower-tinted kueh salat, ondeh ondeh, kueh lapis and tutu kueh.
Photo: Shangri-La Singapore
And of course, it’s only fitting to offer local beverages, so besides the standard coffee and tea selection, there are also kopitiam favourites like the tarik, barley, chin chow, and Milo dinosaur.
All that should more than fill you up but if you can manage, supplement your afternoon tea with one of the signature hawker dishes to share. Shangri-La Singapore has worked with Dr Leslie Tay – he of ieatishootipost fame – to persuade some of Singapore’s best-loved hawkers to offer their dishes here. Think Bak Chor Mee from Seng Kee Mushroom Minced Meat Noodle, Fish bee Hoon from Ka Soh restaurant, Prawn Noodle Soup from Beach Road Prawn Mee, et cetera. The hawkers have personally trained the hotel’s culinary team, and some even send over their secret sauces and soups fresh daily – this is the real deal.
Available Mon-Fri, 3-5.30pm. $30 per adult. Lobby level, Tower Wing, Shangri-La Hotel Singapore, 22 Orange Grove Road, tel: 6213-4398.